Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“Night at the Museum” brings history to life & memories, too, Part II October 2, 2019

Chatting it up in the Harvest and Heritage Halls.


THE ENTHUSIASM OF THE KIDS impressed me. Girls in Laura Ingalls Wilder style calico bonnets and prairie skirts and dresses. Boys in period caps and hats and bib overalls. And then the teens in football jerseys, celebrating locally-grown 1941 Heismann Trophy winner Bruce Smith.


A photo cut-out of Bruce Smith next to Pleasant Valley School and next to a grassy area where kids (mostly) tossed footballs.


All engaged in Night at the Museum, an event hosted by the Rice County Historical Society last Saturday. They led activities, participated and presented a local living history that reminded me of those who settled and grew this southeastern Minnesota county.


Checking out the one-room Pleasant Valley School.


One of many vintage books inside Pleasant Valley School.


Pleasant Valley School, built in the 1850s, and Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, built in 1869. Both were relocated to the Rice County Historical Society grounds.


While it’s easy to romanticize that life, the reality is that life back-in-the-day was labor intensive and often difficult. But also joyful. Just like today, only different in the joys and challenges. Back then students learned from books and used slates and chalk. Lots of rote memorization within the confines of a bare bones one-room country school. Today’s kids use different tools—primarily technology. And hopefully they learn in better ways than simply memorizing and regurgitating.



As I pounded out words on a manual typewriter in the Heritage and Harvest Halls, I thought how grateful I am for computers. Writing and photography are so much easier with this tool. No more xxxxing out words on paper or buying and processing film. When I spoke with my husband Randy on a crank telephone, I recalled the days without a telephone and how my mom ran to the neighbor’s farm when a fire started in a hay bunk next to the barn. Now I use a cellphone and, yes, also a landline. Watching two men team up on sharpening an axe, I recalled the mean rooster on my childhood farm. When we’d all had enough of his terrorizing us, Dad grabbed the axe.


Visitors ride in a wagon pulled by a vintage John Deere tractor during Night at the Museum.



One of many area business signs now displayed at the museum.


When I saw a Surge milking machine, I remembered how hard my dad worked on our family’s crop and dairy farm and all those years I helped with barn chores and watched Dad head out to the field on his John Deere tractor.


Behind glass, memorabilia from a local dairy, closed years ago.


A storyteller, left, roasts hot dogs with another volunteer.



These are the places, the times, I remembered as I walked from spot to spot at the Rice County Historical Museum grounds. Night at the Museum provided many opportunities for reflection, for remembering when I was young (er)…


Folks gathered around the fire to hear these musicians perform at Night at the Museum.


FYI: Please click here to read my first post about this year’s Night at the Museum.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to ““Night at the Museum” brings history to life & memories, too, Part II”

  1. What a really nice event. I remember some previous posts about this event and it must be a popular one in the area. Love the pictures.

  2. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    I liked learning more about your own childhood amidst the story about the Night at the Museum, Audrey. Your experiences are so very different from someone who grew up in the city, without barn chores! Mine was a much easier childhood for sure, although I’m sure the child-me didn’t think so when I had to take out the trash or clean my room! 🙂

    • Yes, growing up on the farm required all of us to pitch in and help. From barn to fields to spacious gardens, we were needed. I wouldn’t trade my rural upbringing for any other experience. The farm shaped me into the writer and photographer I am today. Growing up poor, I don’t place great value on material possessions. When you grow up in a house without a bathroom, for example, you appreciate a house with one bathroom. Each of us has our stories…

  3. Missy’s Håndarbeid (Missy’s Crafty Mess) Says:

    I really enjoy events where people are dressed in period costumes!

  4. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    I always like revisiting days gone by at museums/ and the living history exhibits. I appreciate the stories and the music. Thanks for sharing. Loved all the pics.

  5. I love events like this that mix such history into it. Lovely photos, Audrey. ❤

  6. Janet Hanf Says:

    This would have been interesting.

  7. Gunny Says:

    In San Antonio, at the Texas Cultural Center (just off I-35!) there is a single room school house. Wife and I walked in as the docent dressed in 1800s clothes, gave a talk about those days. I noted a white conical hat in the corner up front sitting on a stool. I went up there, put the hat on (Dunce) and sat quietly on the chair until one of the younger girls in the crowd noticed me which brought me to the attention of the Docent. She (Docent) was amused and I became the topic of the next segment of her speech.

    I am one of those reinactors on occasions. I dress up like a Confederate Marine which usually confuses everybody. I have been on Honor Guards and am currently finishing my dress so I can dress warmly for the winter. I am also gathering up my Colonial Minuteman outfit for other occasions. Actors here dress up. March 6th, in San Antonio, people with period dress, get up and go down and fire salutes before dawn at the Alamo. This adds a lot to see and to share between visitor and the volunteer. This or any other events.

    At one parade, I noticed something unusual about another in period dress. I learned a lot when I asked the question. We miss details such as he told me in our history books..

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